Brazil’s biggest cities were in the grip of a ‘general strike’ Friday called by unions to protest government-proposed labor and pension reforms. Public transport in cities including São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte was largely paralyzed Friday, leaving industrial and service sector employees with little choice but to stay home. Demonstrators gathered in some cities but not in large numbers. News reports cited isolated incidents of looting and vandalism. Many banks, restaurants, offices and stores were closed in downtown areas of major cities. Many industrial workers stayed home in São Paulo’s ABC manufacturing belt. The administration of Brazilian President Michel Temer has proposed reforms that would create more flexible work rules under the nation’s labor code. His signature reform is a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s bankrupt pension system. Temer has argued that the labor reform would help create jobs while the pension reform is needed to keep the social security system solvent over the long term. Unions say the labor reform will abandon long-held worker rights. They argue the pension reform is unfair to wage and salary earners who will have to work more years and will qualify for lower benefits than under the current system.
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